UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: African Union observers report continuing atrocities in Darfur
NAIROBI, 28 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - Armed militias have continued to attack civilians in the troubled western Sudanese region of Darfur despite an undertaking by the government to disarm them, the peace and security council of the African Union (AU) has said.
In a statement issued from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday, the AU urged the Sudanese government to "expeditiously implement its commitment to neutralise and disarm the Janjawid militia and other armed groups, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights abuses".
It said militias believed to be Janjawid fighters, had continued to loot and burn villages, leaving some villages deserted.
Calling for the cantonment of rebel forces at mutually agreed sites, the AU urged the parties to the Darfur conflict - the government and the two rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) - to comply with a humanitarian ceasefire agreement signed on 8 April, and cooperate with the AU military observers deployed in the region.
"The [AU] calls on all partners to continue to support these efforts, including financial and logistical assistance to sustain the AU-led mission deployed in Darfur and to enhance its effectiveness," the communiqué said.
It stressed that the AU should continue to lead efforts to resolve the crisis in Darfur, with support from the international community, including the United Nations (UN).
Expressing regret that JEM and SLM/A leaders had failed to attend a meeting on Darfur that was convened in Addis Ababa on 15 July, the AU said: "[The AU] stresses the need for a speedy resumption of dialogue and calls on the parties to be represented at the highest level at the next round of political talks, with a clear mandate, and to negotiate in good faith with the view to achieving a lasting solution to the Darfur conflict."
The statement said there had been progress in the deployment of the military observers and that steps had been taken towards the deployment of a protection force, in accordance with an agreement reached on 28 May.
Welcoming decisions by Nigeria and Rwanda to contribute troops for the protection force, the AU said it would consider the possibility of transforming it mission into a fully-fledged peacekeeping mission.
It called for "a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Darfur, including the steps taken to disarm and neutralise the Janjawid militia, to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations, as well as the violations of the ceasefire and the status of the political dialogue".
The AU statement came ahead of planned consultations at the UN Security Council on a draft resolution aimed at improving the situation in Darfur.
Meanwhile, an observer group of UN staff, Sudanese officials and representatives of various countries visited villages in Darfur where residents had returned following an earlier attack by militiamen.
UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York on Tuesday that the mission, which is monitoring whether the Sudanese government is meeting its commitments to disarm the Janjawid and restore security to the region, would spend three days in the region. It is part of a joint implementation mechanism, set up after the UN and Sudan signed a communiqué on 3 July outlining their commitments to alleviate what has been described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
According to the UN, about 1.2 million Darfurians are internally displaced and at least 180,000 others are refugees in neighbouring Chad because of attacks by the Janjawid militias. But in London, the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Ibrahim Mahmud Hamid, was quoted by the Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on Tuesday as saying the situation in Darfur had improved.
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